Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pursed Lips And Distant Eyes

Franz Welser-Möst, the music director [sic] of the Cleveland Orchestra for ten seasons already and who serves in that position at least until 2018, is a hard man to warm to. It's partly his stage demeanor, by which, after all, an audience makes its first judgment. With pursed lips and distant eyes, Welser-Möst didn't exactly look like he wanted to be in Segerstrom Concert Hall on Tuesday night. Never mind, he had work to do.

But as a conductor, he's a cool customer as well. Those pursed lips come through in the music making, elegant though it can be. In leading his vaunted orchestra through a fresh program of works by Mendelssohn, Saariaho and Shostakovich, he seemed to be holding himself at one remove and conserving his resources. But then that, too, is self expression [sic] of a kind.

It is frightening to read what passes for music criticism in English-speaking countries. The above bit of nonsense, from the website of The Orange County Register, would never pass muster in Paris or Berlin.

The foolishness quoted above was signed (and therefore presumably was written) by one Timothy Mangan.

At least The Orange County Register does not run Mangan’s articles in its print editions—or so is my understanding. And, in its defense, the newspaper made Mangan shut down his weblog some time ago, a charitable act on behalf of the newspaper's readers and advertisers as well as Mangan himself.

Nonetheless, one must ask: why would a publication keep someone like Mangan on its staff? And allow such idiocy to appear on its website?

Southern California deserves Gustavo Dudamel.

And Mangan missed out on his true calling: covering Liberace.


  1. Check out Mark Swed's review in the LA Times (April 18). He reads like a fifth-grader struggling to master the foreign technology of writing.

  2. Yes, I saw that.

    However, I thought "pursed lips and distant eyes" had to take precedence.

  3. Agreed.

    However, give Mr. Swede credit for that dazzling dangling modifier in his very last sentence. That sentence bespeaks a rare accomplishment by any writer when his readers' safari for the antecedent of a pronoun at last discovers that the antecedent is not even located in the same sentence. Give him credit at least for placing that antecedent in the ADJACENT sentence. (My guess is that the antecedent is the word "symphony".)

  4. I think you are being unfair, criticizing the English of a writer whose native tongue is clearly Esperanto!

    To be serious, Swed is a complete boob, and I believe most readers of his newspaper have known this fact for years. The snide comments readers attached to the article you cite are typical of the reader comments his articles always inspire.

    The first time I read the article, I could not make it beyond “in an age of strong podium personalities”—it was at that point that I gave up.

    I am glad I read the review again just now, and made it to the end—I love the howler about the “bourgeois Cleveland sound”.

    Give the man credit: he is proud to affirm his idiocy every single day!

  5. I thought you'd enjoy Swed's "bourgeois Cleveland Sound."

    Those West Coast critics are absolutely clueless, as are the patrons, generally speaking. (Did you notice how some audience members considered the lightness of the string sound to be somehow a "bad" thing? Perhaps that's what "bourgeois" means in California.

    And why do all the critics, including Oestreich in New York, consider the residencies in Miami and Vienna, etc., to be something "bad"? Name another orchestra that has such a demand in the world.

    Perhaps you could post an article called, "Casting Pearls Before Swine in America".

  6. West Coast audiences have always been known for their ignorance, going back decades. If you have any doubt, I suggest you check out a few West Coast music blogs. Without exception, they are—literally—unbelievable.

    A friend from law school, from Los Angeles, returned to Los Angeles after law school. She goes to Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts three or four times a year—and she says that audiences in Los Angeles are unbelievably stupid. She never realized how stupid Los Angeles audiences were until she spent three years in Washington and encountered knowledgeable audiences for the first time in her life.

    Alas, audiences in San Francisco are even dumber than audiences in Los Angeles, hard as that is to contemplate.

    The Tim Mangan review must be getting laughs in Vienna. This post has had thirty or so direct visitors from Vienna the last couple of days, all arriving via search terms such as “California review of Welser-Most lips”.